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La lezione del GM SchwartzmanCan women ever play chess as well as men? This is a very dangerous topic to talk about in today's era of political correctness, but it is a legitimate question, that many people have asked over the time. Unfortunately, there is no doubt that there are indeed fewer ladies playing our beloved game than gentlemen. Many reasons have been given for this, including true facts, such as that chess is a war game to which girls are not attracted, but also sexist remarks, such as that ladies would not be able to go through an entire game of chess without talking.
Interestingly enough, even world champions have jumped on the bandwagon. Both Bobby Fischer, and Garry Kasparov have made remarks that were not very complimentary for the few female players who have strived to reach the top. Fortunately, some of these ladies did not necessarily become discouraged, just because of the derogatory opinions. The best example is the best known female chess player in the world: Judith Polgar.
I am sure you are very familiar with the name. The youngest of the three Polgar sisters phenomenon, she has managed to break quite a few records, becoming at that time the world's youngest Grandmaster, winning a few youth world championships, and impressing everybody with her tenacity. And she has certainly been rewarded for it: reaching the world's top 20, who knows when she will stop! I personally have had the opportunity to experience her ambition at the board: twice we have played, and both games ended in draws.
Anyway, getting back to the position at hand, you can not deny that it is quite a fascinating one. Both sides have very active pieces: white's rooks are doubled on the 'e' file, the knight on could hardly be any more threatening, and the pawn on h5 has certainly started to make its annoying presence felt on the kingside. On the downside, the queen on d1 is not as well placed as it could be (not by far), and the two bishops certainly look great, but don't quite do as much from where they currently are.
Funny, black's bishops are in a very similar situation.  They are well positioned, but all those pawns in the center are putting them to sleep...  On the other hand, just look at the two rooks and queen, as well as the knight.  It is obvious that both sides have been very careful to place their pieces in the best possible locations.
There is however a big difference between white's and black's control of the two open files.  You see, the rook on c8 and queen on c7 have a fantastic grip of the 'c' file, since there is no white counterpart controlling it.  In contrast, white's two rooks on the 'e' file do have an adversary on the other end of the road, on e8.  So, isn't black better off?  The answer is a clear no! 
Instead of being an advantage, black's rook is actually a liability.  Because it is defended only by a rook, it is clear that had the white knight not been on e5, white would simply capture black's rook.  But, since the knight is there, why are we worrying?  For a very good reason!  Yes, the knight is there right now, but if it were to leave, and do it with a threat, who knows what will happen?
Well, someone did know what would happen, and that someone was Judith.  The fantastic tactical ability that she has become known for, helped her find the quiet, but beautiful right move:  1.h6

There is no doubt that white would love to chase the bishop away from g7, since that's where it is best placed.  Also, as is the case in many similar situations, in creating a spot for the bishop on g7, the so-called finachetto, black has weakened his king side considerably.  And the only one protecting all those weak dark squares, is indeed the bishop.  If white can get rid of it, well, the king will suddenly become very lonely.
In other words, if black where to take the knight on e5 with his bishop, we would be ecstatic.  Not only would the king become very weak, but our dark bishop would come back to life and become a real force to deal with.  But what else can black do?  1...Bf6 allows the powerful 2.Ng4;  1...Bf8 also allows white to improve his position after a move such as 2.Ng4; and 1...Bh8 gives white the opportunity for a very cute combination:  2.Nc4 Re2 3.Qe2 dc4 4.Qe8 Re8 5.Re8 checkmate!

No wonder, then, that black's response in the game, was the most aggressive: taking the annoying little pawn with 1...Bh6. 
So, why did Judith sacrifice a pawn?  Being generous?  I don't think so!  What she saw, was once again an opportunity to take advantage of the weakness on the 'e' file that black has to constantly worry about.  For instance, after 2.Ng4, black faces double pressure: the rook, and the bishop.   Since one move can defend both very well, black has to go for 2...Re2, which does allow white to make a point by taking the bishop with a check - 3.Nh6.  
At this point, black is in danger of remaining a bishop down, so who could blame him for struggling to get it back.  The bad news, though, is that the only piece that can do that, is none other than his majesty, the king, himself.  Just take a look at the position after 3...Kg7 4.Re2 Kh6

Yes, black managed to hang on to the pawn, but just take a look at where the king has gotten to.  And remember, it's not an endgame yet! 
From here on, Judith finished the job with a sure hand:  5.Qe1! Kg7 (heading back for cover, but a little too late) 6.Re7 Qb6 7.Bc4 bc4 8.Qe5 Kg8 (finally made it back) 9.Be3 f6 10.Qf4 Kf8 11.Rh7 Ke8 12.Qh6 and after being sent all over the board, the black king finally took a dive, together with the resignation.
So, can ladies play chess?  I think this one answers for itself!